As a race, humans have always struggled to find an answer to the perennial question relating to the reason and relevance behind creation. Different communities and groups of people, belonging to various religious denominations, have attempted their own answer as influenced by their spatio-temporal and cultural perspectives. But there definitely seems to be a clear divide between the Orient and Occident when it comes to matters of birth and death of the ‘soul’.

While Abrahamic religions believe human life to be a oneoff affair, eastern religions including Hinduism and Buddhism deem it to be an iterated game, thereby pointing to the phenomenon of ‘rebirth and reincarnation’. However, gradually the two religious binaries seem to be converging on the reality of ‘reincarnation’ of a soul after one’s physical death. The consensus seems to be consolidating given the stronger evidence stemming from empirical research, including the findings of past life regression therapy. Most of these narratives, findings and accounts of rebirth stories have reinforced the conventional perceptions of a ‘soul’ having a life independent of its physical host on a physical plane.

All these studies have simultaneously confirmed the incidence of past lives of reincarnated souls, but they all stumble when it comes to the inter-life phases. Almost all religions have their beliefs about the postmortem period, often described in detail as done in Hinduism, Christianity or Islam. However, these are all scriptural accounts based on mythical stories with no contemporary confirmation. There have been many celebrated stories in recent times where some individuals have claimed to have experienced life after death. They are variously termed as ‘Near Death Experiences’ (NDE), ‘Out of the Body Experience’ (OOBE) or ‘After Death Experience’ (ADE).

In many such cases, brain-dead or comatose people have recounted and described the incidents, events and happenings of the period during which they were declared medically dead by physicians. While on the one hand, these people have accurately described the happenings in the operation theatre or outside when they were in coma or highly sedated state, having no means of knowing the same, some of them have also claimed to have visited heaven and seen God. Dr Eben Alexander, a neuro- surgeon, has described his personal OOBE in his best-seller book, The Proof of Heaven, as has the boy named Colton who claims to have met God in another best-seller book, Heaven is for Real.

The veracity and genuineness of all these claims regarding afterlife or “Spirit World” remain as questionable as those made by different religionists. In fact, all these empirical findings including past life regression therapies could not go beyond confirming the reality of past lives of reincarnated individuals. It is against this background that two recent books namely Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls by Michael Newton, an American counselling psychologist, appear to be quite interesting if not very relevant or convincing.

But these two books do seem to fill the void left by most of the studies and research done on the subject. The claims made in the book often appear facetious and ludicrous, as the writer claims to have authored these books, based on his studies of many of the real-life stories of his cases under hypnosis over the years. All his studies and findings are predicated on ‘past life regression’ therapies which use hypnosis as a tool to take the subject back or forth in life to elicit inputs and feedback on the phenomenon of past life or afterlife. If we are to believe Michael Newton, then the life between lives is much more organised than we may have ever thought or imagined.

The period after death and before next birth is the period described in detail by his patients during the speciallyconducted past life regression sessions. According to Newton, the ‘afterlife’ or the ‘Spirit World’ is a much more beautiful and well-managed world, stewarded systematically and methodically by various tiers of wise and advanced souls. Our life on earth or other physical plane may not be so haphazard and chaotic as we often think, guided as they are by a subtle plan made in the ethereal world.

According to these books, a young and uninitiated soul (predominant majority of souls being young) after one’s death is received and escorted to the Spirit World by their assigned Spirit Guide or Guardian Angel. Such departed souls are also received and welcomed by their near and dear ones to make them comfortable in the Spirit World. While young souls, because of their immaturity and attachment to this world, hover around their physically dead body or wish to stay on in their physical surroundings to comfort their loved ones before moving on, the very mature and old souls don’t waste their time.

Knowing their way, they move straight to their home in the Spirit World. The latter immediately leave for their afterlife destination without awaiting their Spirit Guide or reception by their spiritual sympathisers who are actually friends or relatives from past lives. All these departed souls have claimed post-death life in their astral or spiritual bodies to be more real than the life in a physical form. However, living human beings because of their finite sensory powers, generally can’t feel or sense the presence of a departed soul.

All such souls, on their arrival, join their purported ‘Study Group’ for review and rebirth planning after a period of relaxation and rejuvenation. The burden of a physical life on earth, said to be one of the most difficult of all the physical worlds, is also said to be tiring enough for the soul to warrant an extended period of respite and recreation before getting down to the serious business of review of the life lived and planning for the next life. Newton’s subjects confirm the existence of parallel worlds or dimensions on earth as well as life on many other planets.

With innumerable physical worlds, only a fraction of the souls are said to reincarnate on earth. Many of these souls use inter-planetary or inter-dimensional travel as study or excursion visits for recreation, knowledge or future birth planning before zeroing in on a particular dimension or world for their reincarnation depending on their learning needs. Such travels are also undertaken under the supervision of the more advanced souls to fix some of the design problems of the physical worlds. Many of these dimensions or physical worlds, other than earth, are named and described in the books along with the kind of life lived thereon. Against the long-held belief of existence of a hell or a purgatory for punishment of the ‘socalled’ fallen, impious and nonvirtuous souls, these books talk against any shaming of an individual soul in the Spirit World.

At worst, the very impossibly wicked and misguided souls are isolated and intensely counselled, but usually most of the souls are said to be assigned to different study groups of souls which are under one or the other wise Spirit Guide. The latter use multiple means to interact with the souls in their groups to drive home the right messages and lessons. In all these review sessions, Akashik records what Newton’s subjects call three-dimensional Life Book ~ an important and effective instrument whereby the souls can revisit their past lives or plan their future lives by considering various alternatives and options.

The proposed future life or lived past life is often created or recreated out of extant atmospheric energy particles with varying alternatives before taking a final call. Self-will of an individual soul is said to be the deciding factor rather than forcing any soul to exercise a particular choice.

(To be concluded)

(The writer is an IAS officer, presently posted as Commissioner of School Education, West Bengal. The views expressed are personal and don‘t reflect those of the Government)